Fisheries Bill [HL]





1.1 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), which represents the fishing industry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, welcomes the return of the Fisheries Bill to the House of Commons.

1.2 We welcome the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Fisheries Bill Public Bill Committee. We would like to highlight that many of the key points set out below received support from MPs during the Bill’s Second Reading in the House of Commons.

1.3 We believe that Brexit presents a unique opportunity for the UK’s fishing industry. As an independent coastal state, we will:

· Control access to UK waters and ensure UK fishermen get a fair deal on quotas.

· Revive coastal communities, bringing immediate and long-term opportunities.

· Grow the UK industry’s role as world leaders in sustainable fisheries management.

1.4 The Government must not back down on its promises to UK fishermen. We are pleased to see the Government’s repeated assurances that the UK fishing industry will not be traded away as part of a deal for another industry. If the Government backs down on its promises to the UK fishing industry, many of the objectives that the Fisheries Bill is aiming to achieve will be impossible.


2.1 The Bill correctly promotes co-management. The Government’s co-management plans will mean that stakeholders affected by fisheries regulation will be involved in the design and implementation of the measures.

It also enables fishermen to take responsibility and underlines the importance of involvement for successful implementation.

· The NFFO strongly supports a co-management approach. Fisheries management is complex and can generate unintended consequences.

· Co-management initiatives in aspects of the fishing industry are already underway through the work of the producer organisations, a Shellfish Industry Advisory Group and a Scallop Industry Advisory Group.

2.2 The NFFO welcomes the Bill’s intention to grant equal access rights to UK fleets anywhere in UK waters. However, we are cautious that disputes may arise if devolved administrations seek to introduce their own, separate measures.

· The Fisheries Bill seeks to navigate this through the new instrument of Joint Fisheries Statements (JFS), drawn up and signed by the four fisheries administrations, which will be binding on the parties.

· The introduction of the fisheries management plans to the JFS will also help to create consistency throughout the devolved administrations and coordinate fisheries policies after the UK has left the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

2.3 The most disastrous aspects of the CFP are its inflexibility and rigidity. We must learn from this and take a flexible, responsive approach to fisheries management in the future.

· The original Fisheries Bill 2019-21 – without the amendments passed by the House of Lords – provided much more flexibility compared to the CFP. The NFFO broadly supported the Bill in this form.

· However, we believe the Bill in its current form - as amended by the House of Lords - will create a more rigid system than the CFP. As a result, the NFFO is calling on MPs to overturn amendments passed by the House of Lords.

· We believe that effective fisheries management requires a much more flexible and agile approach than the CFP as well as this current form of the Fisheries Bill.

· There is a lot of natural variability in fish stocks. It is therefore important that we build a framework for fisheries management that has clear and achievable objectives, whilst also being responsive and adaptive.

· The Bill is also right to forecast an important role for Secondary Legislation. Delegated Powers, used appropriately, will allow for a more dynamic and effective approach to fisheries management.

2.4 The NFFO is pleased that the Bill contains powers that will allow the UK to act as an independent coastal state.

· As an independent coastal state, negotiating annually as sovereign equals, the UK will be in a position to decide for itself who catches what, where and when in UK waters. This will help to revive coastal communities and build the industry for future generations.

· We welcome powers for the UK to set quotas and control access over who may fish in UK waters and under what conditions.

· We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment that the UK should enter into annual bilateral agreements with the EU, Norway and others with which it shares stocks and the Secretary of State would oversee these arrangements.

2.5 The NFFO welcomes the introduction of fisheries management plans as they will help to ensure proper responsive management.

· Management plans were not included in the Fisheries Bill 2017 – 2019, so their addition is a welcome step from the Government. The idea of management plans has originated from the fishing industry.

· The NFFO believes that the creation of management plans enables the adoption of international best practice of building and maintaining sustainable fisheries management and are the best way to avoid the errors of the CFP.

· To use an absurd example to make a point: the way to achieve low carbon emissions to achieve the new Climate Change Objective, might be to catch all of the UK’s fishing opportunities using a single state of the art vessel. Such a one-dimensional approach would obviously carry numerous disadvantages and would run counter to many of the Government’s other objectives.

· Similarly, maximum sustainable yield is a useful benchmark for measuring progress towards sustainable fishing – but only when it is applied in ways which make sense and supports the other objectives.

· The NFFO also believes that it is important that an appropriate range of stakeholders are involved in the development of management plans.

2.6 The fishing industry is committed to sustainability and the NFFOs supports this. It is not in the long-term interests of the industry to operate in an unsustainable fisheries management system. However, the NFFO is concerned with rigid approaches towards implementing Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

· MSY is essentially based on assumptions concerning the stability of recruitment and natural and fishing mortality relationships. It does not fully consider the biological aspects such as the length of time for a species to reach maturity and have some impact upon recruitment. The model also does not take into account the availability of prey, the amount of competition, the number of predators.

· It is also worth noting that climate change impacts upon the availability of fish prey such as plankton which in turn has a major impact upon the recruitment of different fish species.

· Setting quotas in mixed fisheries for sustainable fisheries management must take into account a number of different, and sometimes competing factors. This will not be helped if there is a legal requirement that elevates MSY above all other factors and an immoveable rigidity is introduced into fisheries management.

· Instead, the UK must develop an approach to sustainable fisheries management that learns from the failings of the Common Fisheries Policy. Managing complex, multifaceted, fisheries often requires trade-offs between different objectives. For example, high stable average yields, inter-species and intra-species interactions, mixed fisheries interactions, minimisation of waste and discards, income and employment benefits, and optimum exploitation patterns

· The NFFO is sympathetic and agrees with the intentions of MSY to ensure sustainable fisheries management, however our practical understanding of how fisheries management works means we do not agree with the rigid application of MSY.

2.7 The Bill sets ambitious, but realistic, measures to minimise discards. The NFFO believes that reducing discards is an important part of sustainable fisheries management and we are pleased to see the Government taking a positive and workable approach.

· Minimising unwanted catch is more complex in some fisheries due to different species physiologies, catch compositions and operational constraints. The NFFO is pleased that the Fisheries Bill recognises this situation.

· The NFFO is also pleased by the Government’s proposals for a Discard Prevention Charge Scheme. This will allow vessels to land unavoidable catches of over-quota bycatch species, which are sold on the human consumption market, but a charge is then levied. This charge is intended to remove the incentive of any vessels to target valuable bycatch species for which they have no quota but to avoid choking the main target species. Similar arrangements have already been adopted successfully by other countries such as Norway and New Zealand.


3.1 The NFFO is broadly supportive of the Fisheries Bill 2019-2021 in its original form and without the additional amendments passed by the House of Lords.

3.2 The Fisheries Bill presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the UK fishing industry to learn from the rigidity and inflexibility of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Fisheries Bill 2019-21 - without the additional amendments passed by the House of Lords - suggested that this important lesson had been learnt. It would be desperate if that lesson was now unlearnt. We are particularly concerned about the following amendments which we believe have the potential to harm the UK fishing industry. It is vital that they are overturned, and we would welcome MPs’ support for this.

3.3 Sustainability as the prime objective – Clause 1, Subsections 2 and 3

· The UK is already a world leader in sustainable fisheries management. The Bill is right to continue and look to further this record in order to grow the industry.

· The NFFO is committed to sustainability. Without a functioning ecosystem and policies which limit fishing to safe levels, there will be no fishing industry.

· The NFFO supports the sustainability objective. However, we are concerned about Clause 1, Subsections 2 and 3 as amended by the House of Lords which gives primacy to sustainability over all other fisheries objectives and gives primacy to environmental sustainability over the other two pillars of economic and social sustainability at all times.

· We firmly believe this will provide a fundamental impediment to practical and effective fisheries management.

· The sustainable use of natural resources is generally understood to require three pillars: environmental, economic and social. Like a three-legged stool, if one of the pillars is missing the policy will fall over.

· People require livelihoods and economic security as well as long term sustainability. Measures which ignore this inter-relationship will condemn themselves to failure.

· For the UK fishing industry to be sustainable in the long-term, the three pillars of environmental, economic and social must be balanced.

3.4 National landing requirement – Clause 18

· The NFFO believes that a national landing requirement although well intentioned would cut across the ability of fishing vessels to land onto the most profitable market.

· A national landing requirement could result in fishing vessel operators losing out on income that could be gained by landing at a nearby non-UK port, potentially for fish at a higher price.

· Depending on the location of capture, returning to land in the UK also potentially increases emissions.

· The UK already has a license requirement for vessels to demonstrate a genuine economic link. In this requirement, vessels which land more than 50% of their catch abroad must meet additional stipulations to ensure that the UK obtains a reasonable benefit from these catches.

3.5 Compulsory Remote Electronic Monitoring – Clause 48

· REM has an important role to play in fisheries management but we are concerned that creating a legal obligation to carry CCTV cameras will lead to extreme challenges for UK fisheries.

· There are existing complexities in the system that need to be addressed first. The UK has inherited EU law on fisheries which still contains many examples of conflicts or contradictions between legal requirements. We must iron out these contradictions before we consider REM.

· An example can be seen with catch composition rules which limits the percentage of a certain species in a vessel’s catch, but this is directly contradictory to the landing obligation which requires all quota species to be landed.

· New technologies generate new challenges and will not necessarily detect the decisions that are made due to the unpredictability of fisheries. Experience with new technologies has taught us that implementation is not without its difficulties and fisheries are not an exception to the rule. Technology does not necessarily encapsulate the entire situation and may lead to an automatic escalation to the point where fishermen’s livelihoods are at risk without the right of appeal.

· Any policy introduced on REM should be a consultative process and the scope of the management plans in the Fisheries Bill would provide space at the fishery level to deliver co-management, through which fisheries, administrators, fisheries scientists and fishers cooperate in the design and implementation of such measures.

4 September 2020


Prepared 8th September 2020